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Extended ‘lifeline’ power subsidy for poor passes on 3rd reading in Senate

A MEASURE extending until 2031, the lifeline power rate subsidy granted to low-income households was approved in the Senate on third and final reading Monday.

With 19 affirmative votes, zero negative and one abstention, the chamber passed Senate Bill No. 1877 which proposes to amend Republic Act No. 9136, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

The law first provided a lifeline subsidy for 10 years, starting 2001. It was extended by another 10 years in 2011.

The bill will cover marginalized end-users, particularly households consuming up to 100 kilowatt hour per month.

This may include beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or those who applied or were certified by their respective distribution utilities, based on criteria set by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The measure is intended to aid low-income households who have also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Malaking kaluwagan ito sa mga kababayan nating patuloy na nagdarahop dala ng kawalan ng pinagkakakitaan na lalo pang pinalala ng nararanasan nating pandemya (This is a great relief for Filipinos who continue to struggle due to income loss, worsened by the pandemic),” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said in a statement Monday.

Sa pamamagitan ng panukalang ito, makakaasa silang hindi mapuputol ang ayudang tinatamasa ng dalawang dekada na. (Through this measure, they can expect that the subsidy they have availed of in the past two decades will continue).”

Mr. Gatchalian, chairman of the energy committee, said if enacted, the bill will benefit some 5.5 million households. He estimated the measure will lead to P900 in annual savings on electricity expenses.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, the lone abstention, said he did so as a non-supporter of the underlying EPIRA law.

“The reason I abstained is for consistency because in 2001 I abstained on the EPIRA law,” he said during Monday’s session.

“We did not believe in the EPIRA,” he said referring to himself and to former Senator Juan F. Ponce Enrile, who voted against the measure. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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